Interview with Elliott Sharp: I attempt to balance all factors in the composition and presentation of my music: Video

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Jazz interview with composer and multi-instrumentalist Elliott Sharp. An interview by email in writing.

JazzBluesNews.com: – What practice routine or exercise have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical ability especially pertaining to rhythm?

Elliott Sharp: – I don’t have any set practice routines but will work on techniques specific to new compositions that I wll be recording or performing. While my technique on guitar does not diminish when I havn’t played for a few days, I find that tenor saxophone is one instrument that requires daily attention. If I’ve neglected it, then I will begin with long tones and patterns plus exploring some blues or standards until my embouchure is back in shape.

JBN: – Which harmonies and harmonic patterns do you prefer now? You’re playing is very sensitive, deft, it’s smooth, and I’d say you drift more toward harmony than dissonance. There is some dissonance there, but you use it judiciously. Is that a conscious decision or again, is it just an output of what goes in?

ESH: – All of the playing is defined by the music at hand. If I’m working on a song, perhaps blues-based, then any soloing will balance between the harmonic structures and the sonics of personal vocabulary, as much dependent on texture and density as it is on scales or pitches.

JBN: – How to prevent disparate influences from coloring what you’re doing?

ESH: – I never prevent influences but at the same time, I don’t copy them. They’re filtered through my compositional sensibilities: syntax and vocabulary.

JBN: – What’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

ESH: – I attempt to balance all factors in the composition and presentation of my music: intellect, soul, viscerality, physical power, structural integrity, spontaneity.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; you’re okay with giving the people what they want?

ESH: – As long as the people want to listen with open ears, then I will be giving them what they want. Even when I’m presenting fixed songs with my group Terraplane, we’re always changing the music, transforming it with improvisation or with the feeling of the moment.

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of the standard tunes are half a century old?

ESH: – There will always be new standard tunes and new definitions of jazz – the music should not be static. But more important, the music must be presented so that young people can hear it. This means devoting funds so that the music may be performed for audiences that are not paying a fortune for tickets. My favorite gigs are the ones that are free for the public so that people who might not normally see and hear my work are given the opportunity.

JBN: – John Coltrane said that music was his spirit. How do you understand the spirit and the meaning of life?

ESH: – The universe is infinite both in the microscopic and the macroscopic. I hipe to capture that notion as an underlying essence in my work.

JBN: – If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

ESH: – The business of music would not be run by accounts, people who only love the bottom line i.e. $$.

JBN: – Who do you find yourself listening to these days?

ESH: – I’ve always had omnivorous tastes in music but usually only have time to enjoy listening when I’m in airplanes. Now thatI’m home from tour, in these last few days I’ve listened to Sviatslov Richter’s 1965 performance of Betthoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata, Sonny Rollins “The Complete Prestige Recordings”, and vong co guitar of Huang Phuc.

JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

ESH: – The message is abstract but it has to do with the positive benefits of psychoacoustic chemical change.

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go?

ESH: – I would be happy to be in Paris in the 1930’s to catch Django Reinhardt and to NYC in the 1920’s to hear Duke Ellington’s “jungle band” perform.

JBN: – I have been asking you so far, now may I have a question from yourself…

ESH: – I have no real questions except for how to keep doing what I love to do. The practical realities sometimes conflict with the artistic. But I have no choice but to continue!

JBN: – So putting that all together, how are you able to harness that now?

ESH: – My work focuses at the moment on graphic notation but also opera. I have an opera in the works titled Substance, about the philosopher Baruch Spinoza, as he was the one to bridge the gap between the medieval world and the modern one.

Interview by Simon Sargsyan

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